Meet Stacy Sidebottom from Fort Collins High School.

April 11 089

High School teachers are so much more than just classroom teachers. They are mentors, cheerleaders and advocates for what a student’s future holds.  They are constantly looking toward the future.

Named after the town in which it resides, Fort Collins High School is no stranger to preparing for the future. Stacy Sidebottom, teacher in the program for students with autism, is a shining light for the students she works with. Her colleagues recognize her dedication and love for her students. Here is what a few had to say about her:

“Stacey… cares for her students.  She is little but mighty.  Stacey takes on the day’s challenges head on.  Every day, she strives to be a better teacher than she was the day before”.Sidebottom, Stacy2015

“Stacey’s enthusiasm and positive attitude creates a wonderful learning environment.”

“Stacey stays calm and looks ahead for her students.”

“Stacey always looking for the positives in students!  You’ll frequently hear her say “I just love that kid!” – She doesn’t make excuses for them; she rationalizes their behaviors and consequences, and is constantly modifying what will best serve that student.  And when a student is having a particularly good day, she occasionally surprises them with a quick walk to Sonic for a treat!

“Stacey… is passionate about data collection and uses it expertly to make decisions about learning plans for her students. She is one of the coaches of our Unified team and puts her heart into giving her students the most positive high school experience possible. Her patience and resiliency enable her to manage any situation.”

Who is Stacy Sidebottom? Here is her story:

“I grew up in Littleton, Colorado. I attended the University of Northern Colorado for my undergrad and received my degree in special education in 2011. I started working at Fort Collins High School the semester following graduation as a long term sub in the autism classroom. Following my long term sub position at Fort Collins High School I took another sub position as an autism teacher at O’Dea Elementary School. These experiences made me realize that I want to pursue a career in working with students with autism. I was hired full time as an autism teacher back at Fort Collins High School the following year.

Through my teaching experience, I gained interest in shaping behavior and teaching independent living skills. I am currently finishing my master’s degree in applied behavior analysis at Arizona State University and plan on pursing Board Certified Behavior Analyst certification after graduation. My favorite part of my job is witnessing my student’s grow and gain skills that will allow them to live a happier life.”

“Every child deserves a champion- an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.” Rita Pierson.

Poudre School District Integrated Services                                                                 Director: Sarah Belleau                                                                                                                    2407 Laporte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521

Advertisements

Bacon Elementary’s Jake Neufeld

“Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand.”
– Chinese proverb

Neufeld, Jake2.2015

What better way to highlight autism awareness than to introduce you to those leading the way in their Integrated Services special education programs for students with autism. With a ding from the classroom door, you enter a space that Jake Neufeld has cultivated as a safe learning place for both students and teachers at Bacon Elementary School. It doesn’t take but minutes to recognize the connection and care he has for each of his students. Here is his story:

“I’m originally from Canada but have lived here in Colorado for most of my life. I live here in Fort Collins with my wife Maddi.  I enjoy playing music, sports and reading. My wife and I enjoy spending time doing different outdoor activities in the mountains as well.

I received my undergrad degree at the University of Northern Colorado with a Bachelor’s in Special Education. I’m currently earning my Master’s at Arizona State University in Applied Behavior Analysis and am working towards BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) certification as well.

My favorite part of my job is seeing our students apply the skills they learn into real life situations. I also really love teaching behavior and communication not only to the students, but also explaining those concepts to the parents and families.”Neufeld, Jake2015

Integrated Service coach Erin Coy describes Mr. Neufeld as a “… strong, kind, and a consistent presence for his students.”

Poudre School District Integrated Services                                                                 Director: Sarah Belleau                                                                                                                    2407 Laporte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521

Meet Madeleine van Oppen from Boltz Middle School

vanOppen2015

Puzzle pieces offer mystery. They are a small piece of a complex, larger picture. Standing alone, a puzzle piece is merely a possibility, but put into the context of a larger picture and it is beautiful. A puzzle is an insightful symbol for autism. A piece of the puzzle at Boltz Middle School is teacher Madeleine van Oppen. Her positivity and passion for her students sets the tone in her classroom – students are more than the sum of their disability. Integrated Services coach Erin Coy describes Madeleine as “a wonderful advocate for her students and her program”.

Here is Madeleine in her own words:

“My name is Madeleine van Oppen and I am one of the two teachers of the center based autism program at Boltz Middle School.  I enjoy dancing, spending time with family and my dog, baking, and participating in any outdoor activities with my friends.  I am originally from the Netherlands and moved to Fort Collins when I was in sixth grade. I have four brothers, three of whom still live in the Netherlands, and one who lives in Fort Collins as well. My parents live in Fort Collins, while my extended family all live in Europe. I moved back to the Netherlands when I graduated high school to attend the University of Amsterdam originally to pursue a future in dance (ballet, jazz/modern), but decided to come back to Fort Collins after my freshman year.

I enrolled at Colorado State University, shifted my focus and majored in Human Development and Family Studies. I got a job working as a care provider for children who had intellectual disabilities. I became involved in every volunteer program CSU had to offer, spending time with kids and adults with intellectual disabilities, including Special Needs Swim and TGIF. My senior year I became a research assistant for a professor who was studying developmental milestones in young kids with Autism.

Upon graduation, the principal and classroom teacher I interned with in college hired me as a special education paraprofessional. While working as a paraprofessional, I explored other career options. I worked as a class assistant for the Colorado Foundation of Conductive Education (an alternative therapy for kids with muscular disorders), as a nanny for a boy with special needs and as a private tutor. After two years of just working I decided I was sure I wanted to become a special education teacher and pursued my master’s in special education. While going to school I managed to keep working as a special education paraprofessional and also became a direct support associate for an adult with an intellectual disability to gain more experience in transitions to adulthood. I finished my degree with a  Special Education-Generalist from the University of Northern Colorado in December 2014.

van Oppen & Beach 2015I was hired as a teacher in the program at Boltz shortly thereafter and I absolutely love it here. Since then, the other autism teacher, Bonnie Beach, the ILS teacher Stacy Denham, paraprofessionals and myself have worked together to support all of our students with extensive needs as a team instead of as separate programs. What I love most about my job is that there is never a dull moment and not one day is ever like another. I love watching my students learn, have fun, laugh, and seeing them take pride in what they have learned.  We all have so much fun together, and students and staff really just work as one big team here.”

We are fortunate to have the educators we do in Poudre School District.

Poudre School District Integrated Services                                                                 Director: Sarah Belleau                                                                                                                    2407 Laporte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521

Get to know Bonnie Beach, Boltz Middle School.

Beach, Bonnie 2015 2 (make)

Middle School is not a dull place, and Boltz Middle School is no exception. It is a bustling place with a combination of energetic and sometimes low-key youth. Wrestling through the developmental angst of the preteen years is a story of the ages.   When you add special needs, such as autism to this it can create some interesting times during a middle schooler’s career.  Those who have found their way to Boltz Middle School are in great hands, though! This inventive, nurturing team goes above and beyond for their students.

The collaborative work being done for children with autism at Boltz Middle School has translated into a culture of inclusion and acceptance around the school. One teacher within the program for students with autism is Bonnie Beach. Her upbeat, gentle disposition sets her students at ease. Here is more about Bonnie:

“I grew up on a small cattle ranch on the eastern plains of Colorado in a tiny Beach, Bonnie 2015town called Matheson. I studied Human Development and Family Studies at Colorado State University and I earned my master’s degree from University of Colorado Colorado Springs in Special Education. Currently, I live in Loveland with my husband Bill, our cute little baby, Annie, and our two dogs, Emily and Brie.

 I love doing anything outdoors and singing along with the radio in the car. My favorite thing about my job is just about everything but if I had to pick I would say it is the kids for sure! I get to learn so much every day from the students I work with! They teach me how to try to always look at the world from the perspective of others.”

Integrated Service Coach Erin Coy had this to say about Bonnie, “Bonnie is a ray of sunshine and support for her students.”

“A teacher takes a hand, opens a mind, and touches a heart.” Author Unknown

Poudre School District Integrated Services                                                                 Director: Sarah Belleau                                                                                                                    2407 Laporte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521

Get to know Tressa Evans @ Bacon Elementary School.

“Sometimes real superheroes live in the hearts of small children fighting big battles.” 

-Anonymous

oreo game

There is something unique and special about early childhood special education. It is a place where a child experiences many firsts. It can be challenging and exciting often all in the same day. It is a place where students and families alongside teachers, navigate through what it means to have special needs in the context of the school environment. Early childhood special education is a place where achievements, no matter the size, are celebrated.

April 11 024Monday through Thursday morning, you will find the sweet sounds of little voices playing and learning in the early childhood special education class of Tressa Evans at Bacon Elementary School. While small in stature, her heart fills the room. Her fun yet steady approach with her students does not go unnoticed.

Here is Tressa Evans’ story: “I earned my Master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education from the University of Northern Colorado in 1998 and became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst in May of 2013.  I have taught in an early childhood special education classroom for the past 15 years and in an autism specific classroom for the past 8 years. I did my student teaching in Poudre School District under Sarah Belleau and then left the district for a few years. I came back in 2005 so my boys could receive their education in this amazing district.  I was Poudre School District’s Rotary Teacher of the Year in 2013.

Outside of school I have a wonderful husband of 20 years, Shawn and two Evans, Tressa 2015 3awesome boys, Aiden (14) and Avery (12). In my free time I love spending time with my family, riding my road bike, being outdoors and reading.  My favorite part of my job is watching the progress in students as they grow and learn. Sometimes having the privilege of hearing their first words and being a partner with parents on their journey as they enter school and as they support their children. I love helping to build their foundation!  As a Behavioral Consultant for the district I have recently gained experience in all grade levels and love supporting teachers in their learning about autism and providing them with supports for challenging behaviors in the classroom.”

Evans, Tress 2015“Tressa displays the finest qualities we look for in special education teacher.  She has passion for her students, partners with parents to help students progress in all environments, is highly motivated, looks for solutions all of the time, believes that data tells a story to help make change, is fun, creative, has a great sense of humor and shows that she loves her job!   It is a pleasure watching and working with Tressa!” Sarah Belleau, Director of Integrated Services for Poudre School District.

Thanks to Tressa Evans and her team, little ones at Bacon Elementary are given a new lease on life.

Poudre School District Integrated Services                                                                 Director: Sarah Belleau                                                                                                                    2407 Laporte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521

Autism Awareness Month

April 11 116As the world becomes more familiar with autism, huge strides are being made at an educational level. We are constantly learning and evolving in the ways we educate each child as the wonderful individual that they are. Leading the charge in Poudre School District are an amazing group of educators whose passion for teaching have lead them to programs designed to support students all over the spectrum.

“The strength of PSD’s research based programming for students with autism is evident when we look at the data related to students who have participated in a center based program in early childhood or elementary and then are able to attend their neighborhood school, with special education supports, by middle and high school.  We serve approximately 70 students in early childhood and elementary center based programs for students with autism using strong research based programming.  By middle school, a large percentage of the students are able to return to their neighborhood school with supports.  There are some students who continue to need intensive supports through a center based programs, which we of course continue to provide.  By high school, we have a smaller number who continue to need intensive supports.    We believe that early intervention is key and provide great research based intervention at these levels.  This continues on throughout the students time in PSD, though, whether in early childhood, elementary or secondary levels.” Sarah Belleau, director of Integrated Services (special education) for Poudre School District.puzzlw

In honor of autism awareness month we will be introducing you to some amazingpuzzle piece people who give their hearts to the children they serve each week. These teachers work with countless dedicated people to ensure each child is striving for their full potential, constantly pushing and growing. Follow along as we share their stories.

Inclusion… we all want to be part of something.

kindergarten all inInclusion may or may not be a part of your vocabulary when it comes to the school environment. As a part of specialized education, inclusion takes on many forms. There is no definitive answer to what inclusion is as part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. What IDEA does state is that students with disabilities have a right to be educated as often as possible with their non-disabled peers.  The IEP team makes this determination.  So, what does inclusion look like for those working with students with disabilities in the education environment?

In Poudre School District, educators have embraced and succeeded in looking past the challenges that come with learning gaps and work to be highly inclusive of all students. By remaining in general education classrooms, students are learning valuable skills such as developing and maintaining friendships, how to get along with people of all backgrounds, time management, how to communicate their ideas and work with others, and are provided access to core content instruction alongside peers. It gives students the opportunity to discover what they enjoy and where their passions lie. It is a chance to be exposed to a variety of people and activities.

Renee Ostergren, Integrated Service Coach and educator for Poudre School District describes inclusion as a mentality and culture, not a set amount of time. “Is every student a valued contributing member (of the classroom)? If yes, then the amount and time considerations don’t matter.” “It boils down to, do they matter?” She believes that inclusion in a team sport.

“When I’m looking at my students’ schedules in regards to inclusion, I try to look at the most interactive times of day. When will they have the most opportunity to interact with their peers and form relationships? There are times of the day that lend themselves easily to this, such as specials rotations (art, music, and PE), lunch, recess, and science/social studies – when students tend to be doing more group work or hands-on projects. I also work with the grade-level teacher to find other times of day, when students can be included in small groups, or have a job within the classroom.”

“The overarching idea of inclusion to me is that everyone is seen as a community member. That everyone recognizes that each person in their classroom, community, or work place, has something to offer to the better good of the group. I’ve seen this done amazingly well by young children. When they have opportunities to interact with people who are different than them, and are taught to value differences, it makes the community better. It always lightens my heart when I hear a student tell me about how well one of my students can do something, or that they’re excited to see a peer do something new. Inclusion really is a collective idea.  It isn’t something that one person can do by themselves. It takes an incredible team that values this idea, and will work to see it improve, that really makes the community. Inclusion is almost a feeling to me – you know when you walk into an environment if it is there or not.” Integrated Service teacher, Rice Elementary School.

By modifying activities for students opposed to isolating them in a self-contained program, everyone is benefiting including staff. These benefits are a beautiful reminder that as humans, we are all the same.

Poudre School District Integrated Services                                                                 Director: Sarah Belleau                                                                                                                    2407 Laporte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521

Sensory Smarts.

Sensory Smart Classroom.

team pic

 (Whitney Bennett-Clear, Mathew Bruno, Sara Thompson & Kathy Roberts)

red desk fidgetIt is not uncommon to hear someone talk about being overstimulated. Have you ever considered that there may be an amount of stimulation that is just right? The team at Lincoln Middle School did just that. School social worker, Whitney Bennett-Clear saw a sensory need that was not being met, so she and Integrated Service teachers Sara Thompson and Mathew Bruno took on the challenge. Their goal was the integration of sensory tools within their classroom and out in student’s general education classrooms.

To make their dream a reality the team applied for a Supporting Partnerships in Innovative Education or SPIE Grant. SPIE Grants are designed for teachers to include innovative teaching materials for creative and inventive learning. The process was a true collaboration. Parent Stephanie Haynes worked closely with grant coordinator Stacy Poncelow to compose the grant with the Lincoln Middle School staffers. The group was awarded $2,346.92 with which they were able to purchase standing work desks, rocking chairs, balance stools, fidgets, light minimizing tools, scented oils, weighted blankets and more.

bracletThe philosophy behind the sensory smart classroom incorporates our need for sensory stimulation and depression. Think about it, there are times that we may be sluggish and think to have a cup of coffee or bounce a foot while concentrating. The purpose of these aids are to ramp-up energy or decrease sensory stimulation in order to focus. A target group of students, are working toward being able to identify and facilitate these needs. Mr. Bruno, Mrs. Thompson and Mrs. Bennett-Clear have streamlined the use of socially appropriate tools for students. The goal is for students to identify what they need to be successful and access it independently. Does someone feel that rocking would allow them to focus on the task at hand? Grab a rocking chair. Does someone feel that holding and manipulating something pliable would help them relax? Grab a fidget. The only way this is possible is if they are available. That was the vision for the Lincoln Middle School staff.

By providing tools, students are able to accommodate their sensory needs, in return the student agrees to a contract of sorts in which they agree to use them appropriately and responsibly. So what are their favorite sensory tools? Mr. Bruno likes the standing desk, Mrs. Bennett-Clear likes the rocking chairs, as do the students and Mrs. Thompson likes a firm desk top fidget.

Congratulations Sara Thompson, Mathew Bruno and Whitney Bennet-Clear on your 2014 SPIE Grant.

balance stool    rocking chair standing desk

weighted blanketPoudre School District Integrated Services                                                                 Director: Sarah Belleau                                                                                                                    2407 Laporte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521

Congratulations to all Mary Hull award recipients and nominees!

There is so much to be proud of around Poudre School District! Here are the 2015 Mary Hull award winners and nominees.

Mary Hull Award:

Gayna Jobe, Cooper Home Learning 4 Living

 DSC_0074

(Second Row: Tristan Belew, Devon Little, Grady Bearden, Gayna Jobe, Kim Nelson, Jourdan Hersch, Sue Cecil, Beth Ackerson, Shannah Scott, Emilie Ring; First row: Ryan Davis, Christian Llamas, Sammie O.)

“Gayna has a remarkable knack for learning what her students need and being able to not only tailor her day to meet those diverse needs, but being able to switch on a dine in her personal interactions with students throughout the day.”

—Truman Solverud, Vocational Paraprofessional-Cooper Home Learning 4 Living

Collaborative Award:

Kelby Benedict- Assistant Principal at Poudre High School

 6B3A8252

(Kathy Ghidossi, Kathy MacKay, Heidi Graber, Kelby Benedict, Sarah Belleau and Christine Villard)

Kelby “has shown concern and care for the students, has responded professionally and with incredible skill and tact in difficult situations, and has been a leader to his Integrated Services staff.  He cares about all his students regardless of their ability, and teams that support these students.”

—Matt Cloven, Children’s Advocacy Specialist, Arc of Larimer County

Honorary Award:

Natalie Littauer- Peer Helper at Rocky Mountain High School

 DSC_0055

 (Craig Woodall ,Karen Bennett, Natalie Littauer, Wayne Moddelmog, Brett Larsen)

“Natalie spends her day improving the school experience for our students with special needs.  She is a peer helper and spends lunches and passing periods helping our students.  She is actively involved in our Unified Basketball team, Special Olympics and Connection club.  She is committed to improving social and emotional experiences here at Rocky on a daily basis.”

—Craig Woodall, Rocky Mountain High School Principal

Mary Hull Award Nominees:

Kathy Bettis, PSD Global Academy

Erin Gilbert-Poudre High School

Cathy Hettleman-Fort Collins High School

Kelli Schultz-Bethke Elementary School

Tricia VanHorssen-Rocky Mountain High School

 

Collaborative Award Nominees:

Chad Kuhlman- Fort Collins High School

 

Honorary Award Nominees: 

Tom Drungil- Fort Collins High School

Ruth Miller- Zach Elementary School

Teresa Pelster- Bennett Elementary School

They shoot, they score! Unified Basketball is a win.

If you are looking to be inspired, you don’t have to look far. Poudre School District in connection with Special Olympics’ Project Unified has formed it’s very own unified sports IMG_0260basketball league with not only one but four unified high school basketball teams. Unified Sports are teams consisting of students with and without intellectual disabilities. The heart behind this project is that when you practice together, play together and learn together,  understanding grows and friendships are formed.

To get to this point was a labor of love and quite a few people. One of the most instrumental people is Erin Coy, Integrated Services Coach for Poudre School District. After 10 years as a special education educator she was frustrated with the lack of opportunity at a high school level for her students with special needs.

In 2011 she and 4 other educators from Poudre School District and Thompson School District came together to create a Special Olympics Track and Field Event for high school students in the two districts. “Our mission was to provide the opportunity for students with disabilities to compete in athletic activities as a representative of their high school.” says Coy.

The event was a success and a relationship between PSD and Special Olympics was formed. In 2012, Project Unified was gaining traction in the state of Colorado. An area representative contacted Coy about the possibility of bringing Unified Sports to Fort Collins. This was what Coy had been looking for. That year she put together a unified basketball team with students from Fossil Ridge High School to play exhibition games at the Budweiser Event Center during the Harlem Globetrotters Show. The same team had the opportunity to play later that year in an exhibition game at the Pepsi Center for a Denver Nuggets game.

It was time to take it to the next level. In the fall of 2013, a district committee including Rick Yonker (2012 interim district athletic director), Sarah Belleau, and the athletic directors from each school was formed.  The committee with help from Chaka Sutton and Allo Perry from Project Unify Colorado, founded Unified Sports in PSD with 2014 Winter Basketball.

Just like most teams, players try out and partner players have an additional application component. Teams generally practice about 2 times per week. Many of the schools spend practice time with freshman JV, and varsity basketball. Unified Sports are funded by PSD and Unified Sports Grants and  are free to the public. This is something you should not miss!635576567977326195-Coloradoan-012415-UnifiedBasketball-8

Unified Basketball Winter 2014/2015 Schedule.

Coaches

Fort Collins High School:  Stacy Sidebottom, Kelly Kappel  & Troy Tollar

Fossil Ridge High School:  Kim Eberhart, Jamie Westyn, & Brittany Hutson

Rocky Mountain High School:  Amy McLean & Chris O’Grady

Poudre High School:  Wendi Miller & Lisa Owsley

Poudre School District Integrated Services                                                                 Director: Sarah Belleau                                                                                                                     2407 Laporte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521